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Talking Location With author Maeve Haran – GREEK ISLANDS (Cyclades)

1st July 2020

Maeve Haran#TalkingLocationWith… Maeve Haran, author of The Greek Holiday, set in the Cyclades.

It’s so strange to be writing a book called The Greek Holiday in a year when most of us can’t go there. Greece is opening up its beaches but with the ban on flights and, until the quarantine rules are relaxed, few of us will be able to get there.

All the more reasons, maybe, for us to go in our imaginations. Reading books has kept me sane during this strange period of lockdown. Although I might occasionally binge on Springwatch and loved Normal People, it has been fiction that has been crucial to me.

And where better to go in your imagination that the glorious Greek islands? I spent two fun-filled weeks last year researching in Lindos on Rhodes and the tiny island of Milos, the inspirations behind my two fictional locations of Zanthos and Kyri. I also take zillions of photos and create moodboards when I get home so that I can remember the look and the feel of the place when I have to leave it behind.

Maeve Haran

Milos was described by Lawrence Durrell (brother of the more famous Gerald) as ‘dull, remote, harsh’ but when I visited it I found it beautfiul, unspoiled and full of friendly helpful people who couldn’t wait to help me with my book!

Milos boasts more than 70 beaches, and has crystal-clear water, a ruined amphitheatre, and exciting caves the colour of a painter’s palette. The sunsets were incredible, and like its overcrowded neighbour Santorini, everyone had to gather in one tiny bar in the capital, Plaka, to watch them.

One of the major delights is taking a trip in a boat with a topless Greek maiden as the ship’s prow  that should surely have been owned by pirates to the tiny adjoining island of Kimolos once the HQ of French corsairs who hid their booty in the caves. It also has a beach so glorious it makes you think you must be in the Caribbean.

Just like my heroines you can jump off the boat and dive in the bluest of blue grottoes before a fish barbecue on the sands with vegetables grown by the captain of the ship! Not quite as piratical as the past, when you might have been kidnapped for ransom or keelhauled, but a great deal more fun.

The major delight of Milos is how unspoiled it still is. Even though Conde Nast Traveller recently dubbed it the undiscovered Greek island of the year. It’s actually an island that wants more tourism that it gets – a perfect opportunity of my four heroines to put their sleeves up and get involved.

Though most people don’t realize it, the most famous statue in the world, the Venus de Milo, comes from here. This gave me the idea of having another hidden statue of Aphrodite in the book, the possible victim of unscrupulous dealers from the shady world of antiquities smuggling, which it might fall to my heroines to try and save! Researching this was absolutely fascinating and totally unexpected when I started out.

Mapping out Kyri

In fact 2020 was supposed to be a very important year for Milos as its mayor has been campaigning to get the Venus de Milo back to her original home this year.

Little did anyone know the world was about to change beyond recognition.

But at least in The Greek Holiday, as in all my novels, there is still the chance of a happy ending!

Maeve Haran

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